Cleveland Clinic Offers Video Alternatives For Telehealth Tech Problems

A medical professional holds a set of headphones while facing a laptop screen.
As thousands of doctors’ appointments have been converted to virtual visits due to social distancing measures, the Cleveland Clinic has added several telehealth options to address high demand and technical difficulties. [Elnur / Shutterstock]
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Cleveland Clinic providers are using several video chat options in addition to its own internal system to combat technical problems in telehealth visits.

As thousands of doctors’ appointments have been converted to virtual visits due to social distancing measures, clinic patients and providers reported experiencing technical problems and system crashes.

In the past month, telehealth appointments went from 2 percent of all visits to upwards of 75 percent, said Matthew Faiman, medical director of the clinic's Express Care Online. The high demand initially caused hours-long wait times in the Express Care Online system.

“When you go from 50-100 visits to 2500 visits per day, you will have bandwidth problems when everyone’s trying to have the same video solution,” he said. “We had to create some alternative solutions.”

Things are running smoothly now, with providers seeing patients through FaceTime and Google Duo video calls as well as phone calls when appropriate, Faiman said.

“The wait time on the on-demand is about 10-15 minutes, so it’s much lower,” Faiman said. “We’re still seeing the same demand we were seeing a month ago.”

The clinic said it wanted to give providers more options for patient convenience, but its Express Care Online portal is still preferred for telehealth visits for security reasons.

“We are using the, sort of, approved first choices when you can, but realize that you have backup choices because you’re trying to do what’s best for the patient,” said Faiman. “So if video fails, you can turn around and do your phone and if you’re worried about giving up your phone number to someone, here’s how to protect yourself.”

Thousands of staff members across the health system were trained on the new telehealth workflow, as well as best practices for privacy and security with the new platforms.

“I’ve been wanting this to happen for the whole enterprise, to get everyone doing these visits. I just didn’t want it to come for this reason,” said Faiman. “It's been exhausting to get it to happen, but all said, providers have been really happy that they’ve been given tools to do something instead of winging it.”

The Clinic will have to work through any privacy or security issues that arise with the new telehealth protocols, he said, but the hospital system hasn’t encountered any yet.

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